12656 CE: Los Hexeles: From Serious Games to Serious Game Design
Organizers: Ashlyn Sparrow, Melissa Gilliam
Presenters: Ashlyn Sparrow, Melissa Gilliam, Patrick Jagoda
Game-based learning is an important part of the paradigm shift by which digital culture is becoming central to instruction, learning, and research. Both analog and digital games offer players interactive contexts for thinking through and experimenting with complex problems in a hands-on fashion. The category of serious games also gives players, including youth, action-oriented ways of thinking through equity and justice. Interactive games give youth an opportunity to experiment with social, economic, and political systems. While playing serious games may raise awareness, aid learning, and promote political advocacy about a variety of civic issues, the process of designing a game transforms youth from students into teachers who can create tools with and for their peers.
In 2013, the Game Changer Chicago Design Lab (GCC Lab) created Hexacago, a game board that can be used to design a variety of serious games that contribute to learning about public health and civic engagement. Early game designs have tackled tobacco use (“Smoke Stacks”), urban epidemiology (“Infection City”), and economic inequality in urban areas (“Nickel Dime”). All of the games use a shared board that represents the city of Chicago, overlaid by a grid of hexagons marking different city regions and train lines. The board also enables augmented reality components through which players can learn more information about the topic of the game that they are playing. Each game uses artful play to help youth understand the interrelationships between their personal actions (individual and interpersonal) and the larger systems (institutional, community, and policy) that determine behavioral outcomes.
The Hexacago board also serves as a resource to train youth as game designers who can create their own games about a range of city-specific issues. For example, during a workshop that the GCC Lab ran for 70 high school youth in the summer of 2014, students created transmedia games that intervened in social justice and civic engagement issues. Students worked collaboratively with adult mentors to create games about water shortages, gender discrimination in the workplace, and the status of the American Dream in the early twenty-first century. Though the board was created to support educational game development in Chicago, in November, 2014, we also created a second Austogon board to enable location-specific game design in Austin, Texas. GCC Lab designers used this game to run a workshop at the University of Texas at Austin.
For the 2015 Digital Media and Learning Conference, we propose an interactive workshop in which participants will work in collaborative teams to create serious games specific to the city of Los Angeles. The GCC Lab will create a unique Los Hexeles board on which teams can create games about major social and political issues specific to Los Angeles, including access to water, lack of public transportation, pollution, ecological sustainability, and racial segregation. Following a brief overview of the Hexacago project, we will move participants through an accelerated design process in which they brainstorm social issues, appropriate game mechanics, and preliminary rule sets.